In 2019, the AKC Detection Dog Task Force (DDTF) started the Patriotic Puppy Program (PPP) as a pilot project to educate AKC breeders about breeding and raising detection dogs; and to determine if they could consistently produce puppies suitable for advanced training and success as government working dogs.
The project was broken into several phases. Phase 1 focused on training and educational resources and an online content library. Phase 2 brought together breeders and detection dog experts to focus on hands-on training and discussions about all aspects of developing and working with detection dogs. As word of the program and participant successes grew, new mentors and training and educational opportunities were made available. By the end of 2022, it was clear that phase 2 progress had demonstrated proof of concept that AKC breeders and trainers can produce high quality detection dog candidates that meet the need of law enforcement agencies. Phase 2 successes include dogs placed with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies across the country. Multiple breeds have been represented in these successes as well as multiple placements from individual breeders. Agencies and private industry companies are starting to call at the beginning of their search for a new canine, asking for PPP pups for their programs. The future of PPP looks bright.
And now is when the hard work begins. Phase 3 – scaling up the program to make it bigger and better began with the start of 2023. Growth includes adding more individual breeders and puppy raisers as well as more dogs to enhance the pipeline of dogs available for evaluation as detection dogs. Growth also means helping small and medium sized breeding and training kennels add or enhance their business lines for sporting breed detection dogs. These kennels already have many of the necessary resources in place and may only need some guidance on how to move forward, or in a slightly different direction. Growth also includes bringing large industry leaders who breed large numbers of dogs into the AKC family as more than just potential mentors. Growth involves building AKC’s Patriotic Puppy Brand to the point that our law enforcement agencies insist that an AKC Patriotic Puppy is in their kennel and part of their team!
Building and expanding relationships, sharing information between stakeholders, and continuing to produce quality canines is what gets us there, together. The DDTF/ PP team is planning regional workshops throughout the year to give our participants hands-on dog training opportunities while working alongside industry leaders. These training events will also increase awareness and recruitment of new PPP participants nationwide, while adding new tools to our participants’ dog training toolboxes. These relationships, connecting buyers and sellers of working dogs, strengthens the pipeline of available dogs for law enforcement.
The demand for quality working dogs for local, state and federal law enforcement continues to grow on an annual basis and AKC’s Patriotic Puppy is growing to help meet this demand.
Stacey West, Program Manager, Patriotic Puppy Program